Jaws dropped when Saina Nehwal signed the endorsement deal that promises her Rs 40 crore over the next three years. More surprising was the fact that the company that showed faith in the 22-year-old ace shuttlers marketability has been managing Indias hottest sports brand MS Dhoni for a while now.
The firms first non-cricket tie-up points to the changing priorities of the marketing men. No,cricketers arent losing their status as the poster boys but Olympic achievers are well and truly climbing up the popularity charts and,also,the billboards.
Sainas mega-deal is a just reward for her skill that has been honed by countless hours of hard work and many sacrifices,and which has allowed her to break the Chinese dominance in badminton consistently previously considered next to impossible. For years,the more developed European nations such as Denmark and England have attempted to breach the impregnable Great Wall on badminton courts,but without success.
Saina has shown that you dont have to play the nations most popular sport to get big bucks. In case you have the potential to deliver on the world stage,the deep pocketed corporates will come knocking on your door.
But these deals come with a fine print pre-condition: you and your sport should have clean and marketable image. Probably,thats the reason Indias first female Olympic medal winner K Malleshwari or the multi-medal winning relay girls didnt even register a blip on the market. Malleshwari because of the dope-taint on weightlifting,and as for the tracks golden girls they squandered it when they tested positive for banned substance.
Beyond the newly-announced deal,Nehwal will also earn from prize money at international events,including the $200,000 Super Series tournaments. Plus there also are the fringe benefits. Her likeable girl next door charm saw her getting the key of a luxury car the other day.